Attention brofriends! This Wednesday in NYC the Muzik Theory party goes down at Canal Room. For the latest installment of the party, the special guest will be Jay and Nas hook mistress Chrisette Michele, who was a Gen F subject in FADER 44. Check that issue's profile on Ms Michele after the jump, and if you're in town this Wednesday, definitely check her out live.
Chrisette Michele is already winning
By Lindsey Caldwell
My first time through Jay-Z’s comeback album Kingdom Come, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there’d be the Beyoncé hook de rigueur, but it was the surprising, crackled and filtered jazz vocal chorus on “Lost Ones” that stuck out: Lost one/ Let go to get one/ Get one/ Lose some to win some/ Story of a champion/ Sorry, I’m a champion/ Ya lost one…. I actually backed the song up to catch the lyrics, then looked for the name of the singer—Chrisette Michele. Turns out Michele not only sang the hook, but also wrote it. Soon her name popped up again when Nas released Hip Hop is Dead—Michele contributed songwriting to “Not Going Back,” lyrics and vocals to “Hope,” then I noticed her jazzing up “Still Dreaming” and “Can’t Forget About You,” which paired her up with a sampled Nat King Cole…. Damn! Of her impressive run at the end of 2006, Michele says, “As a new artist you go in and say, ‘I hope they like me!’ and the fact that Nas used every single thing that I did just made me want to cry. Like, ‘Word? You sure?’”
Since a track coach handed Michele her very first CD at age 17 in her high school hallway, she’s been studying jazz and pursuing a music career. Michele got turned on to open mic nights during her time at Five Towns College, regularly performing at the Village Underground. Michele noticed India.Arie in the crowd one night and took the initiative to ask Arie to stick around to hear her performance. Arie’s booking agent was impressed and immediately booked the singer for a tour alongside Kem, Angie Stone and Arie. After the tour, Michele returned to her open mic shows while her management mailed out a few demos. An A&R for Def Jam showed up at a few of the Village Underground performances and scheduled a meeting for Michele with LA Reid, who then signed her on the spot.
Growing up, both of Michele’s parents were active in their Patchogue, Long Island church. Her mom was the choir director and her dad played the organ and served as a deacon. She has strong Christian values, and given the general video vixenized tomfoolery of the R&B industry, it seems like a frightening step for her. But there’s no need to question Michele’s bravery after her performances with Nas and Jay, and to call her a gospel artist would be missing the point—you won’t catch her preaching through her music. “There are enough church people in the church,” she says. “I’m really excited to just be myself outside those four walls.”